When you Google “wet leather” you either get leather cleaning instructions or photos for some fetish where people wear leather in a pool—both quite educational.
But add the word “band” to your search and you’ll enter the wonderful world of Brooklyn-based band Wet Leather. Self-proclaimed “anxiety pop,” Wet Leather began as a solo project by frontman Matt Bernstein in 2013 and eventually grew into the four piece you see today.
Their melodies are as catchy as a Cyndi Lauper hit, but have a darker edge that pulls them closer to a sound reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem or Kraftwerk.
After Bernstein’s first EP was released in 2013, he decided to form a band. Eventually old college buddies Barry Marino (drums), Dema Paxton Fofang (bass/vocals) and Jason Katzenstein (Keyboards/vocals) joined him.
This Friday they’re releasing their newest EP Present Lives and throwing a release show at Elsewhere Zone One with support from Ben Seretan and Novelty Daughter.
In the meantime, watch the premiere of the music video for, “Too Serious.”
The video is a tribute to all the DIY venues Wet Leather has had the pleasure of playing. Some still stand and help the underground NYC music scene flourish, while others had to shut their doors.
“There are shots of us at Our Wicked Lady, Berlin and Cobra Club in Bushwick where I worked for years and Barry currently works,” Bernstein tells BTRtoday. “And of course our dearly departed Shea Stadium—losing Shea was a real crisis, we hope they find a new space and get back on their feet soon, NYC needs them.”
Watch the video below and read the entire interview with Wet Leather.
BTRtoday (BTR): Have you ever googled your band name? Because the first time I did that I was exposed to a whole new fascinating world of leather fetishes, did you know that/how do you feel about that?
Matt Bernstein (MB): Yeah, our band name is not particularly search engine optimized or safe for work. We’re aware that’s pretty much an act of self-sabotage, but it’s more fun that way. We don’t really have the inclination to keep up a manicured internet presence. It’s too much work.
Barry Marino (BM): We’re still holding out on an endorsement from Harley Davidson or Diesel.
BTR: Where did the band name come from?
Dema Paxton Fofang (DPF): It sounds like a fantasy rock band.
BM: The Atomic Playboys was taken.
BTR: How did you guys meet and come to form the Wet Leather?
Jason Katzenstein (JK): Matt, Dema and I went to Wesleyan together. Dema and I lived together in college and played in bands. Matt’s band beat us in battle of the bands and opened our spring fling. Wet Leather began as Matt’s solo project in 2013, but after that first EP of music he put the band together. We built Barry in a lab; we genetically engineered him to be the perfect drummer.
BM:: I heard Matt’s demo of “Stop Me” on my lunch break and decided I would be his drummer. Everyone agreed.
BTR: Did you guys grow up surrounded by music?
DPF: I grew up on a pretty wide variety of music, but also started going to NYC rock shows in the early 2000s. So, the Strokes were a big thing at the time. I wrote my first song when I was twelve and it was about needing more sleep. It was called “I Need My Sleep”.
JK: I took classical piano lessons, but dreamed of being in a rock band since I saw the Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City” music video. I regret to inform you that I got GarageBand in high school and on that old computer lived a hundred awful songs. A real lyric I wrote when I was sixteen was, “where did all the broken souls go?”
BM: I grew up on big band and ‘80s pop, but also thought I would be the next Tommy Lee. Like most drummers, I’ve spent my entire life banging/hitting/tapping on anything that sounds acoustically good.
BTR: What are some of your major influences, musically and just in general?
MB: We obviously love Prince and Kate Bush. We also love Mr. Twin Sister.
JK: I have Kraftwerk and Gary Numan in my head when I write keyboard lines.
DPF: In terms of more contemporary influences, I’ve been pretty awe-struck and inspired by Sheer Mag’s bass lines—so melodic, so groovy.
BM: Influences constantly evolve, but my old standbys are Cocteau Twins and The New England Patriots.
BTR: Tell me about this upcoming EP.
MB: We had the keys to a studio in the city and we were sneaking in after hours to get free recording time, so we were always in a bit of a rush and I think that sense of anxiety seeped in to some of the recordings in a cool way. The songs sound urgent to me. As a band, we all care a lot about the songs, so for better or worse we don’t have a cool sense of detachment from what we’re doing.
BTR: Tell me about this new music video and the song, “Too Serious.”
JK: Barry takes a GoPro with him wherever we go. He just puts it down somewhere in the room, and sometimes we don’t notice and sometimes we notice but forget, and then we betray ourselves. This video is a distillation of hours of candid footage.
BM: We had help from our friends Gabe, Emily and Anastasia too.
MB: The video also feels like a great tribute to all the local spaces that have fostered us over the course of the past couple of years. There are shots of us at Our Wicked Lady, Berlin, Cobra Club in Bushwick where I worked for years and Barry currently works. And of course our dearly departed Shea Stadium. Losing Shea was a real crisis, we hope they find a new space and get back on their feet soon. NYC needs them.
BTR: What’s the NYC scene been like for you guys?
BM: Making friends and growing our band in a supportive environment like NYC has been fun as hell.
BTR: What should we be keeping an eye out for in the future of Wet Leather?
DPF: We’re sitting on a treasure trove of new music and we’re very excited about all of it.